Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Music As Lover

For the second time in as many years the super weird and wonderful Xiu Xiu hit up the "stage" at CSF's SUB. "Stage" because the tiny riser in the corner of the student union building doesn't really put the band anywhere above the audience--though the music puts the band miles away.
For a Monday night the turnout wasn't bad. Why these shows are being held in what is really a cafeteria rather than one of the fine performance spaces on campus is a little confusing, but fuck it. That just makes it all the more punk rock.
Xiu Xiu is one of those bands that I tell people about and expect about 1/3 of them to react positively. It's not easy to listen to or to get. Singer Jamie Stewart throws himself head first into lyrics that are both difficult to unravel and a little hard to understand. He screams and sings his way through his tunes with an enthusiasm that has got to be hard to match night after night.
About half way through all the screaming took its toll on the singer who just about passed out during the set. Having met Stewart last year during the band's CSF performance I know that he's an adamant vegan but I imagine most people thought he was drunk. Two glasses filled with what looked like apple juice or green tea sat in front of him. He certainly looked like he was a little tipsy when he just sat down on the stage and took a breather. But, like a good rock star Stewart jumped right up and kept at it.
Xiu Xiu isn't a band that I'd recommend to just anyone and I'd certainly not have a live performance be a person's first contact. Xiu Xiu's albums are well produced, somewhat dancey and carefully perfected; live the band has a much bigger rock feel, with guitars and drums overtaking the sounds of keyboards and bass.
Ches Smith, Xiu Xiu's drummer, is unbelievably good and has quite a track record himself, playing with the underground artist Carla Bozulich as well as avant garde jazz guru John Zorn. Smith was a little more laid back, as was most of the band, during this performance than last, but still a very solid show.
As you can see if you check out blogger and New Mexican writer Steve Terrell's blog you'll see that he and I were taking pictures from nearly the same vantage point. I'm not sure why the older folks nudged out the college kids on this one but there you have it. The music critics were all about blowing out our ear drums for this one.
I'd travel hours to see this band, so the fact that they've played in Santa Fe to such small crowds seems unbelievable to me. I'd still like to see them on an actual stage, far above their audience, but the intimacy that's created in such a small atmosphere is perfect for a music lover who wants to try to figure out why the dance grooves are coming from the guitars and the feedback is coming from the keyboard.